Dodgers First Quarter Grades

April 27, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) speaks with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) before hitting in the eighth inning against Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
April 27, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) speaks with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) before hitting in the eighth inning against Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

With about a fourth of the season in the books, the Dodgers have been underwhelming so far.

The Dodgers played their 41st game of the season last night. They own a record of 21-20 and are currently sitting percentage points behind the Colorado Rockies for second place in the NL West, both teams 2.5 games behind the Giants. The fortunate thing is that the Giants and Diamondbacks have also struggled out of the gate, and neither team has been able to separate themselves from the Dodgers. However, the Dodgers are not playing like a playoff team.

Offense- C-

The offense has been the main issue for the Dodgers. They’ve scored three or fewer runs in 22 of their 41 games, and they’re only 7-15 in those games. When they score more than three, they’re 14-5. They’re exactly middle of the pack (15th) in baseball in runs scored (173, or 4.22/game). They’re also roughly in the middle in home runs (18th, with 39), RBIs (17th) and batting average (19th). They rank lower in on-base and slugging (21st and 24th, respectively), and all of that combined puts them in 23rd in wRC+, with 91. For reference, last season, despite all their struggles, the Dodgers were third with a wRC+ of 106.

Pretty much no matter how you look at it, the offense has been average at best, and often been below average. Some guys (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson) have played up to or surpassed expectations. Unfortunately, the rest of the offense has played far below their talent levels. Some of it is rotten luck. The average BABIP is roughly around .300, and Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Howie Kendrick, Yasmani Grandal, Carl Crawford and Enrique Hernandez all have BABIPs ranging from Kiké’s .224 BABIP to Puig’s .270 BABIP. BABIP isn’t all about luck, as hard hit rates and launch angle can give a player better or worse luck. However, it’s reasonable to expect those numbers to normalize as the season continues.

Starting Pitching- A+/C+

The A+ in the grade goes to Clayton Kershaw, obviously. He might actually be in the middle of his best season of all time? I don’t think I need to mention him here, because we all know how great he’s been. 

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The rest of the rotation gets a C+ because they’ve held it down. The Dodgers have the fourth-lowest team ERA in baseball (3.41) and the fourth-lowest team FIP (3.33), so while Kershaw’s numbers (1.67 ERA, 1.35 FIP) certainly brings those numbers down, the rest of the rotation hasn’t been a tire fire. Alex Wood has been great at home and horrible on the road. Scott Kazmir started off the season horribly and been slightly less horrible of late (but still looking much better). Ross Stripling has been a fifth starter, and Kenta Maeda started off the season looking like an ace, but has allowed four runs in three of his last four starts.

The Dodgers are also fourth in baseball in innings pitched, second in strikeouts, fifth in walks and ninth in home runs allowed. Again, a lot of that can be attributed to Kershaw’s excellence, but don’t play the “take x out of the rotation and they would be bad” game. Take any ace out of the teams rotation and their numbers would look a lot worse. The Dodgers 2-5 starters haven’t been consistently good, but they’ve kept the Dodgers in the game more often than not.

The good news is that reinforcements are on the way. Mike Bolsinger made his first start of the season last night and was extremely average, but if he can re-capture some of his early-season magic last year, he can give the Dodgers’ rotation a shot in the arm. Hyun-jin Ryu made his first rehab start and while his velocity was down, he admitted he wasn’t throwing with maximum effort yet. His shoulder still concerns me, but if Ryu can give the Dodgers a solid August/September, he can essentially be a trade deadline boost to the rotation. Brandon McCarthy is scheduled to start his rehab assignment soon, and he can give the Dodgers a similar post-trade deadline feel if he pitches well.

Bullpen- C-

Ah yes, the Dodgers bullpen.

Much like the rotation, one piece of the bullpen has been light years ahead of the rest of the bullpen. Kenley Jansen has been nearly infallible. Please, FO, sign that man.

Unlike the rotation, the bullpen also hasn’t put up great numbers outside of Jansen. Jansen is tied with Chris Hatcher and Louis Coleman at 16.1 innings thrown up to this point, which is behind Joe Blanton‘s 18 and Pedro Baez‘s 17.1 innings.

The Dodgers’ bullpen has been extremely hit and miss. Here’s a breakdown of their four non-lefty relievers other than Jansen

"Blanton- 18 appearances, 15 scoreless. 1 one run, 2 three runs, 2/9 inherited runners scoredBaez- 18 appearances, 13 scoreless, 3 one run, 2 three runs, 6/9 inherited runners scoredColeman- 18 appearances, 14 scoreless, 2 one run, 2 two runs, 3/12 inherited runners scoredHatcher- 18 appearances, 13 scoreless,  2 one run, 1 two runs, 2 three runs, 1/4 inherited runners scored"

Earned runs obviously are skewed with relievers, but Blanton, Baez, Coleman and Hatcher have combined for 55 scoreless appearances in 72 outings. When they DO give up runs, they give up multiple runs more often than they give up one run, which is obviously not ideal. However, the bullpen draws a lot of ire when they’re bad, but it’s awfully quiet when they’re good, which is a solid chunk of the time.

Also unlike the rotation, there isn’t a clear upgrade waiting. The bullpen could improve when the rotation gets healthy, as Wood could slide into the pen. Yimi Garcia could be an upgrade, but the last update on him is that he hasn’t picked up a baseball as of yesterday. Yaisel Sierra could be an upgrade, as could Julio Urias, but the options aren’t as clear as the rotation.

Overall- C-

No one is happy with how the season has gone. The Dodgers have been sort of the anti-Dodgers of recent years. In the past, the Dodgers have had issues with good teams and beaten up on bad teams. This year, they’ve beaten some of the tougher teams they’ve played, but have struggled against the Angels and Marlins. In the past, the Dodgers have struggled on the road and taken care of business at home. This year, they’re 10-12 at home and 11-8 on the road. All this suggests, to me, that the Dodgers will figure it out and be fine. They’ll also (hopefully) get healthy and their hitters will break out of slumps, and the Dodgers should be fine.

What if they don’t? What if Adrian Gonzalez‘s age is really catching up to him? What if the Dodgers never get healthy and the players they do have keep struggling? The Dodgers have the prospects to acquire pretty much any player they please, but would this FO be willing to take that shot? I’d bet against it. Read this piece by Giants’ SB Nation writer Grant Brisbee. He points out the struggles that the Dodgers have had and points out that the young guys that the Dodgers DIDN’T trade for Cole Hamels or David Price are the reason the Dodgers aren’t in last place right now.

The front office has put together a team full of talent and potential. That’s pretty much all a front office can do. At some point, the onus is on the players to play up to their talent-levels/potential. We can all sit here saying the Dodgers should have signed Andrew Miller or Johnny Cueto or traded for Aroldis Chapman or Hamels. How do we know that in the universe where that happens, they don’t underperform as well?

Next: Seager Looking Like a ROY Candidate

The Dodgers have some time to turn their season around, and it’s not unrealistic to think that they will. Moves will be made, players will improve/regress, lets see what the next 3/4ths of the season has in store.